Archive for the ‘bringing out your gifts’ Category

The Pope: an Embodiment of the Sacred Masculine

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

PopeFrancis-8I write this fresh from watching the Pope’s address to Congress, an historic moment that fills my eyes with tears and my heart with hope. As a non-Catholic who has left organized religion, I am deeply moved by the transparent heart he presents to the world, and by the heart-centered leadership he models for us.

My husband is a legal mediator, and so I hear many stories of people who come armed with their stories and their positions, angry and righteous, feeling predatory about getting rewarded for being right. Jon has to try to lift them to a little higher place, where they can look through the lens of their  real interests. Then they may be able to see what those interests have in common with their adversaries’.

The Pope is a mediator for the world right now, reminding us of principles that are in all our interests, regardless of political positions, religious affiliation, class, race, sex or nationality.

All life is sacred. We can all agree on this, and ought to give each other credit for believing this, no matter what we think about abortion.

All people want and deserve the same compassion we want for ourselves. We can all agree on this, no matter how we would vote on social justice issues.

All people want the same possibilities we want for ourselves. We could all agree on this and then move forward with our dialogue about how to provide those possibilities.

We need to protect the earth. This seems like a basic, a principle that would be hard to argue.

Even though these principles could be considered a lecture to Congress, it was delivered in a way that satisfies our human hunger. The Pope, arriving in his little grey Fiat, is humble and real. He comes from poverty. He speaks in a gentle tone, and uses flowing gestures and a soft voice. I would say that the Divine Feminine within his own heart is palpable in his presence.

And, as Holy Father, his role is to embody the spirit of the Christ, updated for this moment. If he is doing this, then that spirit is tender, protective. Who wouldn’t want a figure like the Pope as a kind uncle or grandfather?

The thousands who greet him are clearly hungry and thirsty. Maybe not all of them for religion. But we are hungry for a leadership that “mothers” and “fathers” us in the best sense. A kind of leadership that marries the Divine Feminine and the Sacred Masculine that lies (sometimes hidden) within our own hearts, waiting to be awakened.

The magic alchemy of this awakening is, in this case, a gentle kind of alchemy. Something is touched, and so people appear. Hope is kindled, once again. Maybe we have another chance to save the earth. Maybe we can rise above our silly political positioning. Maybe we can stop demeaning ourselves and others. Maybe we have another chance to be human.

Ode to Serena and the Mastery of Power

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Serena+Williams+04

I’m a big tennis fan, and so Wimbledon on TV was a bonus during this time of recovering from foot surgery. Feeling rather powerless and in need of some inspiration, a second bonus was spotting the invisible battle going on while Serena was winning the singles championship at 33.

Watching the outer battle…I mean, wow. The woman is a national symbol of the potential for feminine power. I remember watching her play with her sister when they were teenagers, the only black feminine faces in a privileged white sport. Not only have they both risen through the ranks, Serena has navigated the politics of sports, become an international star, and now has maintained and surpassed herself. She has overcome injuries, illness, inevitable aging, incredible competition—and is dominant in the world of athletics. That’s power.

Still, in her final match I watched her battle the personal demons that have come out to haunt her on international television in the past. As she admitted in her interview, her biggest challenge is not physical, but mental. Despite all her achievement, training, hard work and success, mastering herself is the hardest work of all.

I have compassion for her in this struggle. Tennis was my sport, and my biggest enemy was myself. I could rip myself apart faster and more viciously than any critic could have managed. I never did master myself through the crucible of tennis.

Watching Serena reminded me of the Hindu story of Arjuna, Krishna and the chariot. Lord Krishna drives a chariot onto the battlefield and Arjuna is a passenger seated in the back. Arjuna represents the embodied individual soul and Krishna, the higher Self– going into the midst of a battle between the armies of our “lower nature” and our Divine nature, on the inner battlefield. The reins are the mind, the horses the senses. And the whole operation works depends on collaboration between them all. (https://chandrugidwani.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/the-significance-of-the-chariot-with-krishna-and-arjuna/)

I saw Serena’s real battle was to harness and channel the huge power she has amassed. It can be used, like all power, for destruction or for good. The bigger the power and the more fully we enter the bigger area, the more intense the tension gets. Looking through my lens it was not, “Will Serena beat Garbine Muguruza?” as much as it was “Will Serena let Arjuna keep the reins?”

Under pressure, we are all tempted to regress into the habit of allowing our ego or smaller self to grab those reins, triggered by whatever bugs us the most. When Serena’s serve goes sour, it must feel like her power is betraying and eluding her. Her ego must want to scream out obscenities and try to force the issue.

The maddening thing is, the opposite is required. The real battle is to create enough quiet to remain the neutral witness, to listen to higher instruction, to trust that magical flow is just outside our reach, possible once again if we relax and allow it. Letting go over forcing the chariot. Trust over fear.

It’s a mighty challenge for every one of us, collectively and individually. And at the top level of sports, we see the truth: that in a battlefield where every top player has already achieved top fitness, strategy and skill, it comes down to the inner stuff.

What we’re all after is Realization, or whatever you’d like to call it. Peace, happiness, joy, flow. We’ve all had it, and we’ve all lost it. Every one of us is on that battlefield and the skirmishes won’t stop, whether we’re playing on a tiny neighborhood court or in the halls of Washington.

Who’s driving your chariot, or piloting your plane? Are you even acquainted with that higher Self? You’ve met her in those moments where the magical flow just swept you along through difficulties you didn’t think you could master. That’s what I’d call your Arjuna, your Divine Self. You could just call it The Friend. I call it Big Pam, as opposed to Little One.

How can you allow the Friend to take the reins again? Well, I think the first step is always, Just STOP. When anger or panic or pushing or striving or forcing has got you by the throat, just STOP.

Now breathe. Just breathe right into the feeling, wherever it lives in your body. Give it a chance. Give it a little space, a little pat. It’s just your own private angry toddler. Surely you won’t let it drive. You know how that ends. DUI’s or worse.

Now ask. Ask your Self, your heart, for help driving this unruly vehicle. Ask, and it shall be given. Maybe you won’t win the match. But you will have practiced your power serve. You will be one step closer to what I see Serena mastering: authentic power.

Finally, thank your inner Self, your master charioteer. Serena thanks her Jehovah God, which used to annoy me. But now I get it. “It is His strength I rely on,” she confessed. You can call your charioteer Joe if you want, or Delilah. But when you have surrendered the reins and harvested the reward, give thanks and then try to keep doing that.

Your inner crowd will stand up and cheer.

 

How to Make a Great Decision

Monday, February 9th, 2015

path

Sitting in sacred circle with a group of women, I listened to stories told by a group ranging from 19-90. Do you resonate with some of what they shared?

“I’m bursting with energy, but confused. How do I prioritize all I want to do?”

“I have a list of things I love, but I’m not doing that list.”

“I’m so distractible, interested in everything. I need to focus.”

“I have physical symptoms that tell me I’m not on the right path, and it’s still hard to trust doing what I love and know to be true.”

So what is the theme? It sounded to me like the question, “How do we see our path, and then how do we follow it?” This is an important and recurring theme that follows us through life.

Is the answer to discipline ourselves? To crack down and force ourselves to focus and choose? I think not! That is the old way.

This circle, facilitated by dear friend Elise Collins Shields, was an honoring of St. Brigid, descended from the Celtic goddess of the hearth. And so I asked Brigid to whisper in my ear about what we as women leaders, who are immersed in complexity, need to do. How do we discern in the new way? Here is what I “heard:”

As goddess of the hearth, I say, build a fire within to warm and bless your heart’s home–the place inside where you are who you’ve always been and always will be. This is a place outside time and space, a place only the heart knows.

Sit by the hearth, the place of warmth, comfort and safety within your heart and have a fireside chat.

Say to the Universe, “In this great journey where there are so many possibilities to manifest, I wish to liberate myself from outdated stories and beliefs and embody the IAM, The One, the Beloved, the Truth.

Now ask–no, command that the Truth within you enter this room with eyes open, head held high, and speak what is next for you. Listen and “take it in.” Embody that Truth.

Then, rooted in and embodying that Truth, you will conduct a mediation with the mind, which will be a great help to the Truth in working out the third dimension details.

This is the right order of things.

This message from Brigid has stayed with me, and it reminds me of some important things I want to remember:

  1. The heart is the first place I want to go when making any decision. That is “the right order of things.”
  1. The heart is fearless about moving forward and telling me the Truth, and that will always come in Love.
  1. My mind is useful as well, and is a wonderful implementor. I don’t have to worry that my heart will lead me down a scary or impractical path, because the mind will always help with the strategic, clever and practical ways to manifest the heart’s truth in the “real” world.
  2. We all know more than our mind admits. So another question to ask   myself is, “What if I just did what I really know is next?”

This kind of discernment and decision-making is a great gift for a heart-centered leader. It will save time in the end, and move us forward in important ways.

Will you join me in making decisions in this way? Try it and let me know how it works for you.  I look forward to your comments.

 

 

 

What Kids Taught Me about the Active Imagination

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

 

Since I was in love with photography, I wanted everyone else to be as well (nothing like the fervor of the converted.) So,I decided to teach small group photography classes in my living room.

Right away, it was clear to me that I raced through the part about f-stops and dove into explorations about light, the energetic nature of matter, and the spiritual elements of photography. After listening to me for one lesson, an adult student approached me and said she thought her son should study with me.

Billy was learning disabled, though in those days there was no label for that. Frustrated by school and in need of a success experience, Billy would “get’ the right-brained way I taught photography. Would I give him lessons?

I had another close friend with a daughter Mary, who was also having learning problems. So for $5 an hour, I worked with the two of them every week for 1 ½ years.  As a former classroom teacher, I had already formed a strong curiosity about why certain kids weren’t learning. Now I was studying all I could find about the new discoveries about the right and left brain. I felt I was being led on a treasure hunt.

The exercises I designed for Billy and Mary became the basis of curricula I would design and teach in both public and private schools. As an artist-in-residence for the South Pasadena, CA school district, I had the privilege of doing a photography project with 60 5th graders. It was called “Seen one Rock, Seen ‘Em All,”( a brazen slam at Ronald Reagan, who had made that comment about national parks.)

I gave each student a rock, and led them through a guided imagery exercise where they allowed their active imagination to play with the inner picture of that rock, allowing it to become part of a larger scene and story. I had them draw the scene and write the story.

Now the fun began. Their next challenge was to figure out how to make a photograph of that drawing, using the rock and other objects. “That’s not fair!” some of them began to protest. “You didn’t tell us we’d have to make this into a photograph! I wouldn’t have thought of something this complicated if I had known!” said one.

The student, Jack, showed me a drawing of a rock that had become an island surrounded by water, topped with trees, and blown by a strong wind causing big waves. “How am I going to do this?” he said as if it were obviously impossible.

It was a class in problem-solving, so I hinted that he might think of movie sets and dioramas. I teamed the kids up and gave them a week until the day we’d set up a simple photo studio and make the photographs, which they would then print themselves later in the studio I had now rented.

The photo above is an example of the student work, which became a school exhibit. Anna “saw’ her rock (at the top of this article) ‘turn into” her ballet slipper, well-worn from all her attempts to make it into a toe shoe, successfully poised on top of the rock it resembled. The hardness of the rock matched her hard work. The beauty of the shape matched the beauty she captured in her treasured slipper. Beautiful, I thought, and a deep message about how important dance was to Anna.

As for Jack, I couldn’t wait to see how my biggest protester would solve his problem. And so I grinned proudly when, on the day of our shoot, he walked in  with his partner, holding a plastic tub he would fill with water, tiny trees he’d made of paper, and a hair dryer.

Seen one rock, seen ’em all? Sorry, Reagan. I don’t see them that way. And neither do kids, who can see more than we think, when we give them a chance to keep their imaginations alive.

The creative wellspring

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

 

When I was about 30, I entered therapy, thinking that what I wanted was a better marriage, but unconsciously beginning a long journey into becoming more of my real self. I wanted wholeness, the real meaning of the word “healing.”

During that same period, I bought my first 35mm camera and began taking pictures of my two adorable daughters. And then, photographing in a much more serious way. A symbolic way.

One of my photos was of a cutting from a houseplant  The photo was of slender roots emerging into the water contained in a Mason jar.

 I made a print of my photo and gave it to my therapist, explaining that it was a self-portrait. I was like that cutting now—severed from my past and growing my own tentative versions of new roots. When I finished therapy years later, I gave my therapist a tree! I had grown, and now identified as not just the tree, but also a bird whose nest was in the tree. I could fly and also had a safe home. (And, I later wrote Flying Lessons!)

All of this was expressed best by my creative self, who also took up the guitar, filled numerous journals with bad poetry, and played the piano and sang sad old standards. She (that creative self) had come out of the closet, and the observer in me wondered why the explosion of self-expression.

Along with that creativity came a flood of sexuality (I’ve always been a late bloomer) and a deep dive into spirituality. I began to ask myself, “Do creativity, sexuality and spirituality all emerge from the same wellspring?”  And, “What is their connection to my healing journey?”

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to pursue those questions as a writer, photographer and two-time breast cancer survivor. And, I’ve watched many clients now over the years. And here’s what I think:

1.     Creativity, sexuality and spirituality are all forms of the Life Force, and so they do all emerge from a deep wellspring within us, and within the Universe as a whole.

2.     Healing happens from a deeper place than the mind, which understands little of the Creation and its miracles.

3.     When we begin to heal, Life Force is released, and we can’t help wanting to express the joys and sorrows we experience when that happens.

 

4.     When we express ourselves in any creative form, the life force has a place to be seen, appreciated and anchored in our system.

5.     And so, creativity begets more healing. It’s a positive cycle

So here’s the takeaway for you:

1.     What form of creativity is YOU, right now? Remember, it doesn’t have to be art. Cooking, gardening, decorating, creating something beautiful…these are creative acts.

2.     What does it feel like in your body when the life force is moving through you? Call on that feeling and trust that it is healing you in every way.

3.  What if you trusted that just giving yourself time to create might heal all that does not feel well or whole or right within you?

Even if you’re in a period of your life where you feel cut off from your self or your past, you may be growing the roots of a great tree. See if you can trust the life force within you to show you the way.

What does my wild heart desire, #2

Monday, February 4th, 2013

The second process I’ll use to explore what my wild heart desires is photography. I went on a walk in Catalina State Park, which is a treasure right next to my house. (I know, my wild heart is already grateful.) I took some photos—not thinking too much about why, except I was attracted to that scene—and now I’ll dialogue with them.

Seeing the great Catalinas, touched by the setting sun, I remember that my wild heart’s desire is always to live near beauty, with beauty surrounding me, and to be on the Beauty Path. That is, if for some reason I find myself in a place that doesn’t seem beautiful, I will find beauty there, or create it. Thank you for reminding me of how much I love beauty.

I am reminded that I am always looking for my path. That the exploration–the finding and following my path–is a lovely adventure in itself. My wild heart loves that exploration and isn’t nearly as attached to the destination or the end result as my mind and my ego. Another good reminder!

This scene reminds me that reflections–even in an ordinary rain puddle–can be lovely. The way nature is reflected is a treasure, if we just remember to look. My wild heart loves to find lovely reflections, both in nature and in my own inner landscape. She loves the process of taking time, of looking and remembering to remember. She wants me to always allow time for this.

Finally, I stop and see myself–my shadow–in the landscape. What does this show about my wild heart? The photo tells me that my mind and ego tend to think my shadow–the parts of me that aren’t visible to me in “normal life”–show up in natural ways in order to be recognized and accepted. That means the parts of me that aren’t so nice and pretty are going to show up in my outer life through my relationships, and they’ll also show up in my inner landscape. And that is a good thing. My wild heart doesn’t care if I have imperfections. She’s all about discovery, exploration, venturing into uncharted territory. She says we can all have wonderful discoveries when our shadow shows up. Sometimes these involve healing old wounds and other times they involve seeing and recognizing our gifts.

What do these four photographs say to you about your own wild heart? I invite your comments!

What does my wild heart desire? #1

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

This is the first of a series of blogs where I’m going to share some techniques I’ve developed for looking deeply within, using the lens of our creative inner eye. I’ll pose a question that I want to explore and share with you, and then present that question using several different processes.

The first question is, what does my wild heart desire?  By my wild heart, I mean the part of my heart that has not been domesticated or tamed by others, by my own traumas and wounds or by the wounds and expectations of the culture. This heart has not been conquered; it is indigenous, in close relationship with the earth and nature and the heavens. It is wild.

The first process is to use the core concept developed by The Painting Experience (processarts.com) to make a painting by feel. That is, I pose the question before a blank paper and my palette, which only has the primary colors, for simplicity. I clear my mind of thoughts as much as possible.

What color wants to go onto the paper? First, it is blue. So I paint blue wherever it wants to go on the paper until that feels finished. Next, I want to make a green of different strengths, so I mix my blue with some yellow and paint until the energy for expressing green quiets. Now I want a bit of red, and then a lot of yellow. And then I feel finished. This painting only takes me minutes, though I have done many that become more complex.

Now I leave the Painting Experience behind, because they do not analyze or name part of the painting. I will involve my left brain and my right to see what message or information I can get from my painting.

What does the blue feel like? And how does the feeling relate to a part of me?

Blue feels like my beloved ocean, like waves, like the part of me that is fluid, flexible, deep, clear and free.

And the green?

Like rolling hills, a beautifully carpeted, lush surface on Mother Earth that supports all life here. The part of me that is both solid, grounded, earthy, and graceful.

The red is like drops of blood, like the life blood that is both from wounds and passion that punctuates and sustains life here on earth.

The yellow is sunlight, the energy of warmth that sustains life and moves through every part of it. My wild heart wants a warm, lively connection with me and with my journey.

Feeling into the painting, is there more I want to add?

I want to finish with some blue dots in the upper left hand corner that feel like stars, a portal into the unknown Universe of which I am a part.

And so I ask the painting as a whole: What does my wild heart desire?

My wild heart wants freedom, flow, beauty, pulsating life, a connection to the sun and stars and to water and ground—to All That Is. Including a warm, lively connection with me and my journey!

And so what if I made those qualities of experience the benchmarks for success? What if success in my life were to mean pleasing my one wild heart?  Hmmm.

And what would that mean for you? I look forward to your comments!

 

Re-defining Power

Monday, November 19th, 2012

flower power

What is your relationship to power?

Last time I sat in sacred circle with my Advanced Flying Lessons group, I marveled at the experience we had when we asked the spirits of the universe to help us step into authentic power.

World events continue to teach us all–regardless of political persuasion– about some types of power we just can’t afford any more. For instance, exerting power to manipulate or force or restrict another unjustly is an old form that just doesn’t work well any more. Being conscious of what we don’t want to do opens a space for us to re-define power.

Our group agreed that the old forms of power in the outer world are mostly based on fear. And we all were ready to let go of those in favor of the kind of inner power that is sourced in love, truth and joy.

And so, we journeyed together and experienced the natural power that resides in us all. Like a seed, this power that is borne within us can grow and flower and create new life. It can produce fruit and blossoms that nourish others. It can heal old wounds. It can change the world. It can fuel lives that are more meaningful than any generation’s lives have been.

This is the moment, and we are the ones.

And so, we want to nourish this seed within us. What will be our fuel? What is the premium fuel that works for you? Flying Lesson #2–Bring Enough Fuel for the Journey–is all about this exploration.

I invite you to put your hand over your second chakra on your abdomen. Imagine a seed of power there that is alive, dynamic and growing already. When you contact the life force, the power of love and purpose within you, you bring it alive. It wants to be seen. Feel the energy of it–that is a way of “seeing” it. Whenever you do this, it becomes more visible and practical in your life.

If you can trust that you already have all the power you need within you, and if you can trust that your power is not only sufficient but good, then you can let go of fear.

“Allelulia!” as one participant in our group said. Time for Thanksgiving.

May you feel the gratitude and power within you at this holiday time.

with Love and Light,

Pam

What motivates the creative artist?

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

I’ve been away from blogging for awhile, and I’m aware that it’s partly because I suspected I might just be whistling in the wind. Even though I get some nice comments from people, I don’t have a great deal of evidence that a lot of people read my blog.

Which brings up the question, what does a creative endeavor mean if no one is receiving it?  Or another way to put it is, what does a creative endeavor mean to the artist if there is no evident feedback? This has been a dilemma for artists of all media for millenia.

I’m really not complaining, because my ego got stroked big time recently when my book, Flying Lessons: How to Be the Pilot of Your Own Life, received a gold medal IPPY (Independent and small press publishers) award in the self-help category. I have to say, that felt really good! And, many readers are telling me how much the book means to them, and even buying copies for friends and family.

In reflecting on the boost this award and reader responses have given me, I’m wondering what role outer feedback plays in our success. I’m musing now on flying lesson #5, Communicate with the Controllers. In this case, the controllers would be the audience, or buyers or critics who give the artist feedback on the “worth” of her creation.

Should those opinions define us and be the bottom line measurement of our creative ability? I sure hope not, since there are books on the best seller list at this moment whose literary value I would question, for sure. And, there are some fabulous songs out there that aren’t being played on the radio.

But we can’t honestly discount feedback, either. Even when we’ve evolved beyond acting out of ego into a desire to serve, the audience counts. What “controls” the creative artist is a mix of his inner drive and desires and the way in which the world receives his offerings.

It’s the same, I suspect, whether we are mothering, making lattes or selling large scale paintings in a gallery. The motivation comes from inside. And, if the creative person is not “seen” by others, it’s easy for the spirit behind the work to wane.

Hopefully, these two forces work together. The woman I can’t forget, who used to work at the Starbuck’s in my local market, is someone who added to my life. Her smile, her humor, her energy came from a place within her that clearly desires to connect and enrich others’ lives. That spirit motivated me, of course, to buy more drinks from her and to emulate her way of being with others. A win/win.

And so, armed with my gold medal and nourished by that positive feedback, I’m back to blogging. I look forward to trying to serve you some nourishment that will quench your spiritual thirst, make you think, urge you to smile, perhaps bring a tear to your eye, and bring out that spirit within you that longs to create and connect.

Communicating with a Controller

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

I remember flying along this gorgeous coastline in Baja, Mexico, with my husband Jon. It was before I got my pilot’s license, and so when he urged me to stop photographing and take the controls, I got instant butterflies. 95% of me wanted to fly, but the 5% that was terrified had the capability of ruining everything.

This makes me think of the beginning of my career, when I was a classroom teacher worried about maintaining discipline. Even on days when I had 95% of the class involved and focused, I was always afraid of that 5% that might take those controls away from me.

If “flying” is a metaphor for the 95% of us that knows how to break free of gravity and soar, we still have to learn to deal with the 5% that suspects we might crash at any moment. I call this “communicating with the controllers,” which is Lesson 5 in my book, Flying Lessons.

The challenge of this lesson is dealing with negative feedback. That might include the kind of inner voice I heard when my husband urged me to take the controls and I was afraid I couldn’t do it. Or, it might be outer feedback, like the kind I would get from disruptive students.

I would submit that our reaction to both kinds is fear: fear of the fear we feel, or fear that we will not be able to stay in control. Or fear that we were incapable all along; thinking we were was just a lie. And fear can hijack a good intent, a calm mind, an open heart and a good experience.

The lesson I learned from Clio, my flight instructor, was about discernment. Which voices are telling the truth that will keep you safe and set you free? And where is your true voice, which you need to use when standing up for yourself is the answer.

Here’s a summary of Clio’s advice:

1. Be kind. The 5% may be afraid. Fear can make them (whether they are outer or inner voices) say terrible things. Take that into consideration.

2.  Be fair. Remember, they are the 5%. Are you listening to the 95%, or are they just invisible, their hands folded politely on their desks, their voices muffled behind their modest smiles…What if you asked them to raise their voices in song?

3.  Ask for help. Ask your partner, your friend, your angels, your guides, your God, whomever you trust the most for help. For listening. For caring. For hugs. For company. The 95% of the controllers are trying to help you survive.

4.  Keep the whole journey in mind. Remember, it’s this part that is hard. The big picture journey probably has a much more beautiful arc to it.

5.  Remember, everything is relative. You sometimes think the world is coming to an end. When yours looks like that, so does the larger one. Still, there are those other times when all is glowing, when the leaves of every tree are on fire with sunlight, and when the moon is huge and white and all-knowing. When life is holy. When you are perfect, just as you are.